Celebrates 40 Years With Main Focus On Hawai‘i-made Films And Kanaka Maoli Filmmakers
2020 New American Perspectives Program Honors Contributions
of Foreign-born Artists
Firelight And The Melting Pot: Conversations about Race 3-Day Panel presented by Firelight Media
DKII Future Filmmakers Student Film Initiative Debuts Letters
For The Future President Of The United States w/ HAMILTON’s Phillipa Soo as Keynote Speaker
(October 9, 2020) Honolulu, HI – The 40th edition of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) presented by Halekulani announced their film lineup today. Set to open on November 5th through the 29th, this year’s festival will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual screenings, making HIFF — for the first time ever — accessible to audiences all across the United States. In continuation of HIFF’s mission to advance understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific and North America by presenting films from around the world, the festival will present over 200 films from 25 countries, and 17 world premieres.
“This has been an enormously difficult year for nonprofits, artists and arts organizations, and creative entrepreneurs in Hawai’i. While our 40th anniversary isn’t the grand experience we had been planning, I could not be more proud and excited to announce our Festival lineup.” says HIFF Executive Director, Beckie Stocchetti. “For our 40th anniversary, the HIFF lineup is a statement on the perseverance and resilience of Hawai‘i’s community and entrepreneurial spirit. In an unexpected Festival year, we are proud to have pivoted our theater experience into a top-tier streaming experience, maintain all of our education programs, our free virtual reality program, and even increase our industry panels and Q&A’s. And we are thrilled to extend our Festival offerings online to audiences and cinema enthusiasts across the nation, and offer even more reach for our local Made in Hawaii program films and Pacific Island creative content. Our Made in Hawai‘i program has more films than in the four year history of the program, and we are eager to bring Hawai‘i to you in this year of restricted travel.”
The festival will open with MINARI, the critically acclaimed feature written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. The film made it its world premiere at Sundance 2020, where it won both the Grand Jury Price and Audience Award. This coming-of-age American drama stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton. MINARI follows a Korean American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in 1969 in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother and the story then takes place over the next couple of years. The film will screen for one night only, followed by a Q&A with director Chung and star Steven Yeun.
“We are honored to open this year’s 40th anniversary with Lee Isaac Chung’s MINARI. When we saw it at Sundance earlier this year, we set our sights to invite this film and present it at HIFF in a major way.” says Anderson Le, HIFF’s Artistic Director. “It not only captures the director’s amazing humanism that appears in many of his previous works, but is also a classic American immigrant story that rings true for many of our audiences. In a way, this is a film that we all need right now. Plus, we have the opportunity to present the film virtually and also on the big screen on Opening Night.”
In the spirit of Aloha, HIFF will proudly bring Hawai‘i to homes across the nation with the Made In Hawai‘i Competition lineup. The Made In Hawai‘i competition amplifies the voice of local artists, centering Hawai‘i-grown talent and film productions. The awards celebrate the dynamic and flourishing local independent film scene that strives onward the Hawaiian Islands. Select Fiction, Non-fiction and short films that are made by locally-based filmmakers or involve locally-based stories have been nominated for the Best Made-in-Hawai‘i film award. This year’s Made In Hawai‘i program includes:
The world premiere of HAWAIIAN SOUL, written and directed by ʻĀina Paikai, which tells the story of George Helm, a talented musician that used his gift of song to become a leader in the movement to protect Hawaiian land and Native Hawaiian rights, what is now referred to today as the Hawaiian Renaissance.
The documentary feature CANE FIRE, directed by Anthony Banua-Simon, examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, interweaving four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story.
HIFF is doubly honored to present the hometown premiere of WAIKIKI, and also present it as the Festival’s Closing Night Gala. Written and directed by Chris Kahunana, the film stars Danielle Zalopany and Peter Shinkoda (DAREDEVIL, GO FOR BROKE, HIFF37). The narrative feature follows a hula dancer and a broken spirit of a man, as they begin a journey into a hidden world, developing a connection through humanity, nature, and culture.
A total of 7 feature-length films–including the world premieres of narrative features ALOHA SURF HOTEL, a new comedy from Maui-based director Stefan Schaefer and starring Augie Tulba; WATER LIKE FIRE, an indie drama about a sister and brother reuniting after a past trauma directed by Mitchel Viernes; a special presentation of KA HUAKAʻI: THE JOURNEY TO MERRIE MONARCH, which HIFF will make available online and worldwide. In partnership with Hawaiian Airlines and Nella Media Group, follows three hula practitioners on their journey to the Merrie Monarch stage; and STORY GAME, an East meets West horror anthology directed by Jason Lau from local production company Talk Story Productions. A record 18 locally-made short films, including the award-winning animated KAPAEMAHU from Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (KUMU HINA) and Ohina Short Film Lab’s RED HOUSE directed by Gerard Elmore, will also be made available nationwide online.
As the majority of the HIFF40 film program is virtual and available nationwide, audiences can also enjoy works from the New American Perspectives program. Presented by the Vilcek Foundation, the New American Perspectives program shines a spotlight on the contributions of immigrant filmmakers to contemporary cinema in the United States, and supports the inclusion of films by foreign-born filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers at the festival. The foundation provides support for talks, educational programs, and screenings at the festival, creating a platform for immigrant voices and experiences.
In 2020, the artists and films presented as part of the New American Perspectives program include:
Valerie Castillo-Martinez, screenwriter, DEATH OF NINTENDO (b. Philippines)
Yi Chen, director, FIRST VOTE (b. China)
Steven Yeun, executive producer, actor, MINARI (b. South Korea)
Bassam Tariq, director, MOGUL MOWGLI (b. Pakistan)
Hao Wu, director of 76 DAYS (b. China)
Celebrated as America’s melting pot, Hawaiʻi draws people to its ethnically diverse shores, but its multicultural identity masks historic institutional racism and colonialism that still lives on in the islands. FIRELIGHT AND THE MELTING POT: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RACE will be a unique 3 day panel series at HIFF, focused on films challenging and expanding notions of race and equality in Hawai‘i and the US. In collaboration with Firelight Media, an organization dedicated to supporting non-fiction BIPOC filmmakers telling stories about communities of color, these free panels offer a space to reflect on Black Lives Matter and social justice movements towards a more fair, equitable world.
Rounding out the list of films, available for national audiences, are a mix of festival darlings from Toronto Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and from the Asia-Pacific. Highlights include:
#HANDBALLSTRIVE, directed by Daigo Matsui, begins with a social media post by high school students living an uninspired lives after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. Before long, they come to realize what they really want to do and what it means to live in this place.
76 DAYS is a documentary set in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film captures the struggles and human resilience in the battle to survive the pandemic in Wuhan, China. It is directed by Hao Wu (PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE, HIFF38 Grand Prize Winner), Weixi Chen and Anonymous.
BEAUTY WATER, directed by Kyung-hun Cho, is an animated horror-thriller that examines a girl’s downward spiral when receives an unexpected package containing a sample and video for a mysterious beauty product. After viewing the shocking video, Yaeji is both horrified and enticed.
LOIMATA: THE SWEETEST TEARS directed by Anna Marbrook honors the last voyage of the great waka maker, sailor and mentor Ema Siope, whose journeys between Aotearoa and Sāmoa in search of healing, and her family’s reckoning with systemic abuse, are powerfully documented.
NEW ORDER, a narrative feature from Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco (DANIEL AND ANA; AFTER LUCIA; CHRONIC), is a riveting and prescient dystopian drama that serves as a disquieting cautionary tale for a society marked by extreme class divisions. The film won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the recently concluded Venice Film Festival, where it world premiered.
NIGHT OF THE KINGS, written and directed by Philippe Lacôte refuses all genre expectations, flowing between a prison drama and visually stunning sequences that depict Roman’s elaborate tale. Further incorporating song and dance (and a cameo by the iconic Denis Lavant last seen in HOLY MOTORS), the film is a mesmerizing meditation on the art of storytelling and its role in survival.
THE PAPER TIGERS follows three former Kung Fu prodigies known as The Three Tigers who have grown old and lost their fighting abilities and connections to Kung Fu. This feature-length debut from writer/director Bao Tran blends a perfect mix of action, drama, and comedy to create a lighthearted and fun film, with some life lessons underneath.
National audiences can also enjoy world premiere works created for the third edition of the annual HIFF Daniel K. Inouye Institute Student Film Initiative. In partnership with the Daniel K. Inouye Institute (DKII), the 2020 edition of the HIFF DKII Future Filmmakers Student Film Initiative, students explored the ideals of leadership and civic action needed during these unprecedented times by creating cinematic letters for the Future President of the United States. Finalists are eligible to win cash and camera equipment as well as have the opportunity for a private virtual event with Phillipa Soo. Soo is best known for originating the role of ‘Eliza Hamilton’ in the critically acclaimed show HAMILTON. Her performance garnered a 2016 Tony Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She was most recently seen in the Selena Gomez-produced rom-com THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY. Soo will impart wisdom about her artistic journey and the importance of civic engagement in our electoral process.
Additional offerings for the nationwide audience will be the 2020 lineup for HIFF XR. Audiences can enjoy HIFF XR safely at home, a dynamic showcase of creative works in emerging media — virtual reality, video games, live streaming, and more. A special free live streaming panel with Taiwanese transmedia filmmaker John Hsu will be presented as part of HIFF XR in partnership with the annual SPOTLIGHT ON TAIWAN presented by Ministry of Culture ROC and Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles. Hsu is best known for his early work in producing machinima videos, then onto his award-winning VR pieces YOUR SPIRITUAL TEMPLE SUCKS and GREAT HOAX: THE MOON LANDING, and for his hit genre film DETENTION, a live-action feature adaptation of a popular videogame.
As all of Hawai‘i follows to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the City and County of Honolulu has set forth a new tiered framework aimed to slowly and safely reopen businesses and activities, while keeping the residents of Honolulu healthy. In an effort to reignite the local economy, HIFF will partner with Consolidated Theaters to present limited in-person screenings on Oahu. For select dates throughout the festival month, HIFF will screen titles for local audiences in theaters with reduced seating capacity and following the strict guidelines framed by the Cinema Safe campaign. HIFF will have programming, on select dates at: Consolidated Mililani With Titan Luxe, Consolidated Pearlridge, Consolidated Kapolei and ‘Olino by Consolidated Theatres with Titan Luxe. Programming at these venues will include:
MLK/FBI (Co-Centerpiece) The latest film from noted documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard, MLK/FBI presents a clear lens on examining J. Edgar Hoover’s relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, when MLK is celebrated as a civil rights hero, across both political aisles, it is jarring to confront the hate and “fake news” campaign mounted by federal agents who painted him as an enemy of the state.
I AM GRETA (Co-Centerpiece) This documentary, directed by Nathan Grossman, follows Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student in Sweden, globally known for her environmental activism. The film culminates in a harrowing sailboat ride that Greta and her father Svante take over the Atlantic Ocean to attend two UN climate summits in September 2019. Over this transformational year, we witness the forces that seek to lift her up and tear her down.
AMMONITE from acclaimed British director Francis Lee (GOD’S OWN COUNTRY) is a forbidden-love story between Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan). The film captures the potent chemistry between Winslet and Ronam. The film is both vital and austere, not unlike the fossilized sea creature that gives the film its title and poignant symbol.
The International premiere of BABY DONE, executive produced by Taika Waititi (JOJO RABBIT; THOR: RAGNAROK; HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), is a Kiwi-infused comedy that stars Rose Matafeo (THE BREAKER UPPERS). Wannabe-adventurer and free spirit Zoe and her longtime boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis) run a tree-trimming business and are also competitive tree climbers, set to fly to Canada to compete in the annual competition.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME directed by Jing Wang follows the true story of how one man altered the fate of 120 million people with his pen.Young writer Han Dong has moved to the big city hoping to make it big. So when a reporter at Jingcheng Daily takes him on as an intern, he feels his luck is changing. And when he happens upon an illegal scheme to hide positive Hepatitis B blood results he believes he has struck journalistic gold.
I’M YOUR WOMAN is the latest film from director Julia Hart (FAST COLOR; STAR GIRLl) and award winning producer Jordan Horowitz (LA LA LAND), The narrative feature is a decidedly female take on 1970s crime dramas starring Rachel Brosnahan (Emmy winner for THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL), who also dons producing duties for this film. Hart deftly directs this film as a tale of love, betrayal, motherhood, family, and what it takes to claim your life as your own.
Also screening in the theaters and also limited online will be the world premiere of LUMPIA WITH A VENGEANCE; the long awaited action-comedy featuring former UFC fighter Mark Muñoz, April Absynth, Darion Basco, and Danny Trejo (MACHETE, FROM DUSK TIL DAWN). A sequel of the 2003 Filipino American cult-favorite, LUMPIA, which had its world premiere at HIFF 17 years ago, LUMPIA WITH A VENGEANCE is a testament to homegrown, community-sourced indie filmmaking produced by artists who are taking ownership of their own place in geek pop culture.
The world premiere of TOUGE: THE LAST SAMURAI, from director Takashi Koizumi, assistant to the legendary Akira Kurosawa, is a beautiful samurai film based on a popular novel by Ryotaro Shiba. Starring Koji Yakusho, Touge: The Last Samurai tells the true story of a samurai who led his country to fight against the new regime with honor and dignity at the end of the Tokugawa era. Shot entirely on lush 35mm film, Touge offers a philosophical take on a lost way of life.
In addition, select Hawai‘i made films will also have live screenings at Consolidated Theaters locations during the Festival. To adhere to social distancing policies, the Festival will not host any live introductions or Q&A’s with HIFF staff or filmmakers and strictly follow Consolidated’s Cinema Safe protocols.
“There is absolutely no replacement for watching a film in a theater with an audience. The experience is unmatched and an integral part of a film festival experience. The stories we tell and share are critical to a shared sense community, especially at a time that challenges the ways we can stay connected to each other,” said Stocchetti. “We are absolutely thrilled to be working with Consolidated Theaters across Oahu to bring a safe, socially-distanced, fun atmosphere to theatrically view special run films at HIFF40. Our partners at Consolidated Theaters are working diligently to enact protocols informed by guidelines set by the city and county that ensure the safety of our patrons. We believe in this community and supporting the arts in Hawaii, and see this as a natural extension of that mission. We are also working hard with the Honolulu Mayor’s Office to safely and properly launch a drive-in program for HIFF40. Our vision is that together, these screenings can be a safe and familiar space to gather and help invigorate our local economy.”
Additional films, honorees and the full list of HIFF TALK STORY panels will be announced in the coming weeks. For a current lineup of films and events, please visit www.HIFF.org
About Hawai‘i International Film Festival presented by Halekulani (HIFF)
Established in 1981, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of cultural exchange and media in the Pacific Rim. HIFF is a premier international film event that has won the praise of international filmmakers, scholars, educators, governments, programmers and film industry leaders across the globe. HIFF’s programming has two particular mandates: to be a festival of record for emerging films from Asia, the Pacific, and North America and to present the top festival films from around the world, annually screening films from over 45 countries. HIFF Industry and HIFF VR presents content and panels in the fields of film, music, virtual reality, and new media entertainment. These transmedia programs reflect HIFF’s commitment to exhibiting innovative creative content coming from the Asia Pacific Rim. Visit hiff.org for more information.
HIFF’s key presenting sponsor is Halekulani Corporation and major sponsors are: Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines, Middle Management, and Consolidated Theaters.
HIFF Festival Event listing
What: 40th Annual Hawai‘i International Film Festival, presented by Halekulani (HIFF)
When: THU 11/05/20 – SUN 11/29/20
Festival Passes and individual ticket purchases available online at hiff.org